By: Houria Rollosson, Special to KCTS 9
July 29, 2011
Washington State was one of the early adopters of the prohibition of alcohol. And at that time, this was quite...Progressive!
As one looks back at the dry years, it is tempting to consider this era a product of a few reactionary and extreme groups. But as University of Washington history professor William Rorabaugh reminds us, the law that banned alcohol for almost 10 years got the majority of Washingtonian votes!
In fact, Prohibition was part of the Progressives’ overall agenda along with the reforms of local governments, education, medicine, finance, insurance, industry-- many of which endure today.
But Progressives didn’t succeed alone. Various groups like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League were also engaged in this battle against alcohol. Some were trying to regulate morale, or protect families from the social ills of alcohol. Others were trying to break the political and financial corruption of saloons, political groups, and brewers.
The Progressives even got a boost from World War I as the two major brewers in Washington State (Rainier Brewing Company and Olympia Brewing Company) were of German ancestry.
In retrospect, the prohibition of alcohol may be viewed as a fool’s errand. But at the beginning of the 20th century, outlawing alcohol was for a majority of Washingtonians a hope to eradicate some of the real problems of their time.